I’ve been a huge admirer of Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen from the very start. The first two volumes were no doubt the standouts of the series; the East London settings playing a big part towards my enjoyment of it, being a born and bred East Londoner (but also of Northampton descent too!) and of course, the many colourful literary characters which Moore utilized in the story. Some have said that Moore’s storytelling dipped with the Century series, sadly I haven’t read said series so cannot comment on them. Although hopefully this should be rectified this summer by way of the upcoming Century Hardcover Omnibus. But The Black Dossier was a thrilling read, it’s safe to say that it was a truly unique reading experience.
Then of course, last year saw the release of Nemo: Heart of Ice which was one of my favourite comic titles at the time. Kevin O’Neill’s marvellous artwork was a treat as usual. Especially impressive were his rendering of the Mountains of Madness and the chilling Albino Penguins which were depicted in Lovecraft’s famous short novel. Although it was a brief read it was packed full of brilliant ideas and images, and being a fan of H.P Lovecraft I lapped it all up with joyous gusto.
What then of Nemo: Roses of Berlin?
Well this time, Janni Dakkar and her lover, Broad Arrow Jack are in 1941’s Berlin to rescue their daughter Hira and son-in-law, Armand Robur (captain of the airbornre craft – The Terror) who have both been taken captive by The Reich, controlled by the dictator Adenoid Hynkel (Chaplin’s Hitler in The Great Dictator).
If Moore and O’Neill channelled the literary work of H.P Lovecraft’s At The Mountain Of Madness in the last book , then here we are in the cinematic version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Dr. Mabuse.
The book feels more like a straight adventure story as Janni and Jack travel to the bowels of Berlin to retrieve their loved ones. On the way there they meet Dr. Mabuse (from Norbert Jaques’ novels) and Dr. Caligari’s hypnotised sleep troopers. Not to mention Rotwang’s automon, Maria (the robot) from Metropolis. There’s also an unexpected development which I will not go into, suffice to sat it may come as a shock to those who have been following Janni’s storyline from the start.
O’Neill’s artwork is a sheer delight to behold especially the mouth watering double page splashes. His depiction of the German Metropolis is stupendous to behold, with overhead trains, steam, iron and long shadows which linger over the city like the German Expressionism which his artwork echoes.
Todd Klein’s lettering is also excellent, with the use of both upper case and lower case lettering in some intsances. And Ben Dimagmaliw’s colouring is outstanding, not too colourful (other than the opening splash page) but in perfect tone with the story.
We have some customary prose near the end, ‘The Johnson Report’ where we have a fictional interview by Hildy Johnson of Princess Dakkar. Here we see Janni as a much older character, it’s clear this interview takes place a long time after the events of Berlin. It’s an interesting piece giving insight into her mind and thoughts on some of her sea-faring exploits.
The book itself is presented in beautiful hardcover. It is quite slim, same as the previous volume but the hard covers and spine give it some weight and the feeling that you’re holding something special, especially when you look at the interior cover art and the strong binding.
In conclusion, Nemo: The Roses of Berlin is a superb addition to Alan Moore’s vast library of work, and it also has some of the best artwork I have seen by the magnificent Kevin O’Neill. There’s another book planned for next year in what will be the Nemo trilogy, and on this evidence you can sure as hell count me in.